Why Chiwetel Ejiofor Really Wanted To Play The Lion King's Scar

Scar in The Lion King

In 1994’s animated classic The Lion King, Oscar-winner Jeremy Irons provided the voice of Scar, one of Disney’s most menacing and captivating villains. For this summer’s photo-realistic CGI remake from director Jon Favreau, Chiwetel Ejiofor takes on the mantle and the mane of Simba’s treacherous uncle. It was the prospect of getting inside his head that made Chiwetel Ejiofor really want to play Scar, as he explained:

I was interested in understanding the real psychology of Scar, the psychology of a person who always feels as if they have been somehow mysteriously overpassed by the fates, by the gods themselves. That sense of not being in the rightful place and therefore living in a kind of parallel universe to the one that you’re supposed to be in — what sort of psychology would that mean, and what would it go to over a period of time?

Scar is, simply put, a fascinating character, and the opportunity to examine his psychology and see what makes him tick is what interested Chiwetel Ejiofor about the role and what he wanted to explore in his performance. Chiwetel Ejiofor wanted to understand who Scar is, why he feels the way he does and how that leads to him doing the things that he does.

It’s not a simple psychology because Scar isn’t a black and white villain in the way characters like Maleficent (not the live-action one) and Ursula are. He’s evil to be sure, but like many great villains, he thinks that he’s the good guy, or at least that his actions are somehow justified.

As Chiwetel Ejiofor told Entertainment Weekly, Scar feels that he isn’t where he is supposed to be, that the universe is out to get him and he is being denied something that he feels he’s owed; in this case, the throne. It has shades of Stannis Baratheon’s claim to the Iron Throne, but instead of being governed by a strict sense of duty and right, Scar is governed by envy and desire.

That psychology results in Scar having a massive chip on his shoulder and crafting a narrative in his head that he’s the downtrodden hero that has been mistreated by the world and those around him. And he naturally sees Simba as someone else who stands in his way.

Despite being a member of the royal family, this character, inspired by Hamlet’s King Claudius, sees himself as an outcast and pals around with the hyenas that also don’t have a place within the circle of life governed by the pride. You can see why Chiwetel Ejiofor was so excited to dig into Scar’s psychology because there’s a lot going on there.

Chiwetel Ejiofor talked about what that psychology would do over time, but it’s also interesting to ask what birthed those feelings in the first place. Therefore, I’m curious if The Lion King will explore the history of Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Scar at all. In the original film, Scar is simply named Scar and we never really get much about how he got his namesake.

However, in The Lion King: Six New Adventures, a collection of spin-off books released in 1994, one of the books titled A Tale of Two Brothers tells the story of Mufasa and his younger brother when they were princes. In that, Scar’s real name is Taka, which means trash in Swahili, and honestly, that would kind of explain why he’s so pissed off.

The elder Mufasa is either the first in line or chosen for the throne (Pride Lands succession rules are unclear) and Taka tries to get him attacked by a buffalo in order to make him look foolish and have their father pick Taka to be king instead. This plan backfires and Taka is hurt, getting his scar in the process.

We don’t know if this backstory is canon, but it would be interesting to see The Lion King give us something new by touching on Scar’s backstory, whatever it is. In this instance, he in many ways was always jealous and deceitful. Like Walter White was always Heisenberg, Taka was always Scar, long before his looks reflected what was on the inside.

Whatever the case, it sounds like Chiwetel Ejiofor is diving deep into the mind of an the iconic villain for his portrayal of Scar. You can see his Scar when The Lion King hits theaters on July 19. Check out our 2019 Release Schedule for all of this summer’s biggest movies.

Nick Evans

Nick grew up in Maryland has degrees in Film Studies and Communications. His life goal is to walk the earth, meet people and get into adventures. He’s also still looking for The Adventures of Pete and Pete season 3 on DVD if anyone has a lead.